Joe Lunardi spent the better part of a day scrubbing, but it wasn’t like he was doing household chores.
Instead, ESPN’s resident bracketologist was “scrubbing the seed list,” an examination Monday to see if he needed to move teams up or down a notch or two, particularly the 36 at-large teams that he currently projects will be invited on Selection Sunday to the NCAA Tournament.
What showed up on his “Bracketology Show” that appears regularly at this time of year on his Twitter feed was that Lunardi dropped Villanova and Penn State each one spot on the seed list, to where the Wildcats went from a 3 seed to a 4 seed, and the Nittany Lions fell from a 4 to a 5.
Michigan State took over Villanova’s spot at No. 12 overall, making the Spartans the last of the 3 seeds.
“I’m looking at it and I’m going, ‘If Michigan State played Villanova right now on a neutral court, who would be favored? Michigan State,” Lunardi said Tuesday. “In helping to think about who would most basketball people think is a better team right now, I think most people would say Michigan State. They might not have said a month ago, and they might not say it two weeks from now.”
In making ‘Nova a 4 seed, Lunardi moved the Cats to the East, meaning a date at Madison Square Garden if they can get past the first weekend.
“The average 'Nova person might say, ‘Hey, that’s better, because I want to go to the Garden,’ or ‘We’ll have a lot of fans at the Garden’ or ‘It’s easier for us,’” he said. “You’re playing a 13, who might be really hot and has won 11 straight to capture their conference and it’s a really live underdog.
“There’s no way to know that at this stage of the game. So I tend to be a fan of, give me the easier path for my players and their fans, kind of from a travel/geography/normalcy standpoint.”
Penn State was replaced as a 4 seed by Wisconsin, which has improved since adding transfer Micah Potter in midseason.
“Their record and their Quad-1 [wins] are off-the-chart good, and that’s why,” Lunardi said. “If Wisconsin played Penn State on a neutral court in the Big Ten Tournament, I think Wisconsin would be favored by a hair, maybe not. But right now, two very even teams, one seems to be going up and the other one seems to have maybe plateaued.”
Rutgers continues to struggle to stay in the bracket. Lunardi has the Scarlet Knights as the third team in his “last four byes” category based on their record of 1-10 in games played away from Piscataway and 3-9 in Quadrant 1 games, although their wins — Seton Hall, Penn State, Wisconsin, all at home — look impressive.